Hunting season is upon us, and we had some elk meat leftover from last year. In order to prevent it from going to waste and to make room in our freezer for this year’s meat, we decided to can our elk meat for long-term storage over the winter.
Before we start in on how we canned elk meat, please remember that you MUST with no exceptions, use a pressure canner when canning any meat! Meat is a low acid food and water bath canning won’t be good enough to prevent botulism. Also, make sure you check your cans of meat before use. If there’s any bubbling, growth (molds), or loss of liquid, DO NOT eat that can of meat!
If you are uncomfortable with this, please don’t can meat! DO NOT do anything that you feel is not right for you! We have a nice pressure canner and have always wanted to can our extra meat for storage over winter.
It can be overwhelming to can meat considering the safety measures you have to take, but it can be worth it! We successfully canned our elk meat, and every single jar sealed, even the two that lost liquid. However, we immediately used those jars in an elk stew that was simmered most of the day just to be certain they were safe to consume. I’ll share how we made that toward the end! It turned out really good and is a great winter dinner!
Before you can anything, sanitize your jars, lids, and bands. We used the dishwasher on the “sanitize” setting to do this for the jars and bands. We chose to boil the lids.
Canning Elk Meat
Cut the meat into about 1-inch pieces. Use some olive oil and brown in a dutch oven. Save the drippings and keep that liquid on a low boil to use as your canning liquid. As you brown the meat, transfer it to the jars. Leave one inch of headspace for meat! These jars will be under a lot of pressure for a long period of time and will need that space! Add a tablespoon of seasoning you like and a tablespoon of salt. Seasonings and salt are optional, but we added them because we intend to eat this meat.
Once you have jars full of meat, get your brine ready. We used the drippings from the elk and olive oil, along with some beef bouillon and a little water to make sure we had enough. Pour the brine over the meat in the jars, leaving one inch of headspace. Used sanitized lids and bands to seal the jars.
Place the jars in a pressure canner, and be wary of your elevation! This will determine what pressure you will need to can the meat at and for how long. We had to can our elk meat at 15 pounds of pressure for 90 minutes because our elevation is about 6800.
Once this meat was all canned, all 14 jars sealed, even the two with reused lids and not enough headspace. But, just to be safe, we ate those jars immediately.
How To Use Canned Elk Meat
The next night, I used both cans of meat in a stew.
Brown some carrots, celery, onions, and garlic. (I added them to olive oil in that order.) Once brown, add the jars of elk meat, some water, put on a lid, and let it simmer for 2 hours. Add some chopped-up potatoes and rutabagas (we used ours from our garden) and simmer for another hour.
Top with some chopped leek or green onions and that’s it! It’s pretty simple, and could be done in a crockpot too! It was really good, and it makes a lot of stew, so you will get a few meals out of it.
Canning meat can be done safely and effectively. Try it if you are comfortable doing so! It was easier than we thought it would be, just make sure you take the precautions necessary to do this safely. We now have plenty of space for another animal in the freezer this year!